On this day in legal history, August 10, 1993, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was sworn in as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, becoming the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court. Her work has had a lasting impact on U.S. law, particularly in the areas of gender equality and civil rights.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg's tenure on the U.S. Supreme Court was marked by significant decisions that shaped American law. In "United States v. Virginia" (1996), she authored the majority opinion that struck down the Virginia Military Institute's male-only admissions policy, emphasizing that gender equality is a constitutional right. In "Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw Environmental Services" (2000), she wrote the opinion upholding citizens' rights to sue for environmental infractions, even when the illegal conduct had ceased. Ginsburg also wrote the dissenting opinion in "Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co." (2007), arguing for a broader interpretation of the statute of limitations for pay discrimination claims. Her dissent inspired the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, signed into law in 2009. Her work consistently displayed a commitment to civil rights, gender equality, and access to justice.
Also on this day in legal history, my co-host Gina was born. Like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she is a jurist of note and, as of Fall 2023, a professor of law. She will positively hate this, but she’s the coolest and the center of everyone around her’s world. Love you G!
A revived legal dispute concerning a Christian music teacher, John Kluge, who refused to use students' preferred pronouns, will test the US Supreme Court's new standard for religious accommodations in the workplace. Kluge lost his initial case under a precedent allowing employers to deny religious requests posing minimal hardship. However, the Supreme Court recently altered how religious accommodations should be analyzed, making them harder to reject. Kluge's case is returning to an Indiana federal court for reassessment under the Supreme Court's unanimous Groff v. Dejoy decision. Legal experts note that there is a lack of clear guidance on when a religious accommodation constitutes a "substantial" burden on an employer. This issue is becoming increasingly critical as courts grapple with religious requests and LGBT anti-discrimination protections. The school district will likely argue that Kluge's accommodation disrupted the academic environment, while Kluge must prove that his religious beliefs are sincere and that a reasonable accommodation exists. The new Groff standard is expected to complicate employment cases across the nation and impact the number of religious accommodation cases going forward.
Southwest Airlines plans to appeal a Texas federal court order that requires three of the company's lawyers to undergo religious liberty training from Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a prominent conservative Christian group. The order was handed down by Judge Brantley Starr after Southwest failed to comply with a court order related to a lawsuit by a flight attendant who was fired over anti-abortion social media posts. The company will also appeal a $5.1 million jury verdict for the ex-employee in her religious discrimination suit. Starr ordered the training after Southwest "inverted" a required notice regarding religious practices and beliefs of flight attendants. The selection of ADF for the training has attracted attention due to the group's advocacy in major legal battles over abortion and LGBTQ rights. Legal experts have described the order as unusual and unprecedented, though within the court's power. ADF's chief legal counsel expressed readiness to help Southwest with the training, emphasizing the importance of respecting religious liberty and diverse viewpoints in the workplace.
The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed Apple to maintain its App Store payment rules for now, denying a request by Epic Games that would have allowed developers to direct iPhone users to alternative purchasing options. Justice Elena Kagan, in charge of emergency matters for the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit, rejected Epic's request without explanation. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals previously found that Apple violated California's Unfair Competition Law by limiting developers' ability to communicate about other payment systems. However, Kagan's decision grants Apple a temporary reprieve from the ruling, with the appeals court having put its decision on hold for a potential Supreme Court appeal by Apple. If the justices refuse to hear the case, the ruling will take effect. The dispute could have significant financial implications for Apple, as the ruling may allow developers to bypass the 30% commission Apple charges for digital sales through its App Store. Both Apple and Epic declined immediate comment.
The U.S. special counsel investigating former President Donald Trump obtained a search warrant for Trump's Twitter account in relation to the investigation of the events of January 6, 2021. Twitter, now known as X, delayed compliance with the warrant and raised First Amendment concerns regarding a nondisclosure order over the warrant. The company wanted to notify Trump about the warrant, leading to legal complications. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed a federal trial judge's decision to hold Twitter in contempt and fine it $350,000. Trump responded to the situation on his social media site Truth Social, claiming that the Justice Department "secretly attacked" his Twitter account. While Trump's tweets are publicly viewable, the warrant likely seeks access to non-public information like direct messages and drafts. The opinion did not identify which judge held Twitter in contempt, and spokespeople for the Special Counsel and X have not immediately commented.